About The Game
Take the Motor Cycle from "Hang On," equip it with hi-tech weaponry and give it the ability to transform itself into an aircraft or car - and you've got ACTION FIGHTER!
Action Fighter is loosely based on the 1986 Sega Arcade Game.
Although the arcade game and Master System version share several gameplay elements, the Master System version makes some significant design changes.
Both versions have a mix of Spy Hunter style road sections and airborne shoot em up sections. The transformable vehicle idea is unique to the Master System design. In the arcade game, the road sections end at way-points (either a garage or a hangar) where you will leave your current vehicle to get into the next one. The arcade design also features branching pathways where the path you choose will determine which vehicle you get to use during the next stage of the game. The Master System design is completely linear with gameplay split into 5 distinct missions.
Action Fighter was also converted to several other European home computer systems by Core Design in 1989 and published by Firebird Software, these versions were clearly based on the Master System title rather than the Arcade game.
Each mission of Action Fighter for the Master System is split into two or more parts, with a mix of ground sections and aerial sections.
You take control of Action Fighter, which is a futuristic transformable vehicle. You begin the game on the ground as a motorbike, which is armed with a forward firing machine gun with unlimited ammo. Look out for the van, which has a SEGA logo on the roof, drive (carefully) up to the back of the van (much like Spy Hunter) to upgrade your machine gun.
To complete the road section you need to stay on the course whilst avoiding or shooting the other traffic and collect tokens, which are marked with the letters A-F. Collecting the tokens bolts on additional parts to your vehicle; after collecting 'D' you transform into a car, and then shortly after collecting 'F' your car will stop momentarily for jet engines to be attached, and then you take off for the airborne part of the mission.
Immediately after take-off you will encounter more enemies, which are much more aggressive than the enemies found in the road section. You will be attacked by both ground and airborne enemies. You are equipped with forward firing rockets to take out the other airborne enemies and bombs to hit the ground based targets. Much like Xevious, a reticule appears at a fixed distance in front of your vehicle to show you where your bombs will land.
Power-ups are also available in the air sections, look out for small tokens which have the letter P on them; there are different coloured 'P' tokens which can increase the speed of your vehicle, firepower, etc.
Each mission starts off against a timer. During the first part of each mission you effectively have infinite lives until the timer reaches zero, after that further collisions will reduce your stock of lives; again, this mechanic is very similar to Spy Hunter. Additional lives can be earned for reaching certain score thresholds.
Each mission culminates in a boss fight. Each boss fight has you facing a group of enemies, with each enemy in the group needing to be hit multiple times. Except for the second boss, you will be fighting the bosses as the jet so you will need to use your bombs when faced with sea or ground based targets, or rockets for other airborne enemies. Air to ground combat is usually the most difficult type of fight because of the need to hit your enemies from a fixed (and fairly close) distance.
Graphically the Master System version does not follow the look or design of the arcade game, however the graphics are good for the system with fast and smooth scrolling. There are quite a few different enemy types and the ground and air based sections each have their own distinct look and design. However, later on in the game the backgrounds reuse the same elements over and over, and the enemies repeat, so once you've got through the first two missions you will have seen most of what the game has to offer.
I wasn't very impressed with the music, there are two main tunes in the game, one for each of the ground sections and another for each of the air sections, and then there is another short tune for each mission's final shoot out. Sound effects are limited to basic shooting noises and explosions.
The controls are simple and work well, with one caveat. The D-pad moves your vehicle. Each vehicle mode has a slightly different feel; the motorbike is the most manoeuvrable, but vulnerable to collisions with other vehicles. Once transformed into the car the steering is slightly slower, but you are a bit stronger and can withstand collisions with the other vehicles. Pressing both action buttons together whilst on the road allows you to transform from the car back to the motorbike, but I didn't find much use for it. The jet-car is initially the least manoeuvrable of the three vehicle modes, but can be powered up to move more quickly.
The action buttons shoot, and also bomb (air section only). You can hold the action buttons for continuous fire, however the rate of fire is way too slow. I'd strongly recommend using a rapid fire unit or a rapid fire enabled joypad for this game.
I found the game quite challenging at first, although after some practice I was usually getting through the ground sections without too much trouble. However, I still struggled during the air sections Generally the challenge is fair, although in the flying stages there are sections with clouds in the foreground so some enemies and their shots can be hidden from your sight, which can lead to some annoying deaths.
Mixes racing and shoot em'up action.
Fast and smooth scrolling with two distinct environments and a good number of enemy types.
Challenging and addictive gameplay.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
No difficulty options/settings.
An option to toggle rapid fire on/off would have been very welcome.
Level designs don't vary much later in the game.
This is a challenging game, but I return to it occasionally to see how far I can get in the game. I'd definitely recommend using a rapid-fire joypad.
A review copy of the game was purchased by Video Game Legacy and reviewed in accordance with the review policy.